In The Old Curiosity Shop, Dickens intended Nell as the embodiment of pure goodness, basing her character in part on his idealization of his late sister-in-law, Mary Hogarth. The reading public took Nell to their hearts, and millions of people shed tears at her long-foreshadowed death near the end of the novel. Oscar Wilde famously made fun of all this sentiment, but, in fact, Nell’s sad adventures are gripping, and her death is quite moving.